The honey bee occupies a special role among insects. Since ancient times humans have had a special relationship with it not just because of the honey. From an educational perspective, the honey bee offers a wealth of starting points: from the sensory experience of tasting the honey, the scent of the hive, hearing the humming in a flowering lime tree through the practical activity in extracting the honey and candle dipping to an intellectual understanding of the importance of the honey bee in pollinating crops and the practical impossibility of the coexistence of genetically modified and unmodified plants.
An estimated half of Waldorf schools in Germany already keep honeybees in their school gardens and the pupils have the opportunity intensively to experience the progression of the year in observing the bees. Summer then no longer just means the long holidays and going away but also the pinnacle of the year which in the development of a bee colony is passed at St John’s Tide (24 June).
Keeping honeybees – caring for wild bees
It is the intention of the initiators of Bees & Trees to motivate Waldorf schools worldwide which do not yet keep honeybees in their school garden to enrich the educational experience through the integration of honeybees into lessons. The aim is to provide suggestions on how this can be done for the benefit of all age groups.
But the focus is not just on honeybees; after all, there are about 570 different species of wild bees in Germany alone (worldwide as many as 20,000), from which humans don’t harvest honey but which often pollinate the flowers even more thoroughly than their domesticated cousins. In creating flowering areas and landscaping kindergartens and schools, the aim of the project is to create a much greater awareness of the needs of wild bees which are food specialists to a much greater extent than honeybees. Some species only occur where a particular flower grows.
Alongside promoting balanced biodiversity, schools which don’t have the opportunity to keep honeybees can in this way participate in the project by “setting the table” for the bees.
Thus trees, including fruit trees, can serve not just as pasture for the bees but in addition pupils can be sensitised to the importance of trees and forests for our whole ecosystem.